A Season For All Conditions: Explore the Beauty of Autumn… In Any Type of Light

Photo of autumn foliage along a lake. “Bear Mountain State Park Autumn Scene in Direct Sunlight,” © F.M. Kearney
“Bear Mountain State Park Autumn Scene in Direct Sunlight,” © F.M. Kearney

By F.M. Kearney

As nature photographers, we’re always searching for the best light in which to capture our subjects. What looks good in direct sunlight probably won’t look its best in flat light, and vice versa. It’s not often you find a single subject that will shine equally in any type of lighting condition, but that’s precisely the case when it comes to the colors of autumn.

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A Passion for Wildlife Photography, Part I

Ten Tips for Better Photographs

Eastern Cottontail siting on fence nibbling on grass. Photographed on Assateague Island.
Eastern Cottontail siting on fence nibbling on grass. Photographed on Assateague Island.

Story and Photos by Irene Hinke-Sacilotto

Inspiration 

Why is wildlife my favorite subject to photograph? To begin, I inherited love of animals from my father. He lived in Baltimore’s inner city in a row house with 12 siblings, but escaped whenever possible, walking great distances beyond the city limits, into the woods, with his dog by his side. I am grateful for the knowledge he shared and reserving time to take me for walks in the woods, turning over logs looking for salamanders and looking up into treetops for squirrels. He instilled in me an appreciation for nature and love of animals, no matter how common or unusual.

The Eastern Gray Squirrel is commonly found on the east coast of the U.S.  They are known for their acrobatic skills. With specialized feet that you can see here, they can hang upside-down on trees trunks, run along the top of a fence, and gain access to the most sophisticate bird feeders.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel is commonly found on the east coast of the U.S. They are known for their acrobatic skills. With specialized feet that you can see here, they can hang upside-down on trees trunks, run along the top of a fence, and gain access to the most sophisticate bird feeders.

Engagement & Mindset

I am curious by nature and love the challenges that wildlife photography presents to include locating animals and anticipating behavior. For me, the pursuit of wildlife photography has a calming influence in my life. I call it “Photo Yoga”. When observing animals, my attention is totally focused on the subject. Negative thoughts, worries, and concerns disappear. Immersed in the moment, I often instinctively sense what is going to happen next as my subconscious recalls past encounters and visual cues. Even if I never take a shot, each encounter provides me with a mental database that helps me take better images in the future and with stories to share. The observations are often interjected in my presentations for camera clubs and shared with friends. For some photographers, post processing is the favorite part of rendering an image. For me, my greatest joy is capturing images in the field.

Humor is infectious. I had to laugh when watching this young Black-tailed Prairie Dog playing with the tail of its sibling.
Humor is infectious. I had to laugh when watching this young Black-tailed Prairie Dog playing with the tail of its sibling.

Patience & Perseverance

Patience and perseverance are critical for capturing great images of wildlife behavior. Maybe nothing is happening at the moment. But if you wait, conditions may change. I stay focused but am open to other potential photo opportunities, different than those I originally had in mind.

This wallaby mom and her joey hung out near my room at O'Reily's Guest House in Australia. I looked for the pair each day when I walked passed the area. One day, both were in the open and they allowed me to capture these and other images.
This wallaby mom and her joey hung out near my room at O’Reily’s Guest House in Australia. I looked for the pair each day when I walked passed the area. One day, both were in the open and they allowed me to capture these and other images.
I spent a long time with this pair of wallabies and took a number of photos of them. This one shows the size of the joey. I suspect junior may shortly be too large to be fit in mom's pouch.
I spent a long time with this pair of wallabies and took a number of photos of them. This one shows the size of the joey. I suspect junior may shortly be too large to be fit in mom’s pouch.

Knowledge, the Key to Success

The more you know about your subject, the better your photography. Careful observation of animal behavior and research are crucial. Now web searches make gathering information much easier than years ago. Talking to researchers, hunters, fellow photographers, and birders can be quite helpful in identifying new locations for wildlife photography. Often, they can provide insight into the behavior I am observing and help me anticipate what might happen next.

I saw this Great Egret beginning to stretch after sitting on this branch for a long time. It extended its wing and then stretched its leg. I was lucky to capture this image at the exact moment that the bird's leg was extended with the wing behind.
I saw this Great Egret beginning to stretch after sitting on this branch for a long time. It extended its wing and then stretched its leg. I was lucky to capture this image at the exact moment that the bird’s leg was extended with the wing behind.
After this Belted Kingfisher caught a crab, it shifted the position of the crab in its bill a number of times trying to swallow it. By taking a series of photos in rapid succession, captured this shot at the exact moment that the crab's claw showed against the background.
After this Belted Kingfisher caught a crab, it shifted the position of the crab in its bill a number of times trying to swallow it. By taking a series of photos in rapid succession, captured this shot at the exact moment that the crab’s claw showed against the background.

Relax and Let your Imagination Soar

Give up preconceptions or labels. Keep an open mind with child-like curiosity and enthusiasm. Be flexible and experiment. Move and change your camera angle. I might lie on my back for an interesting point of view or shoot while lying on my belly. Zoom out for wider views of the surrounding or increase magnification to capture detail. Sometimes I give myself assignments designed to stretch my imagination. At times, I will go into the field with a single lens or concentrate on capturing patterns, reflections or abstract images. Or, instead of using a fast shutter speed to freeze action, I might limit myself to much slower speeds to produce images that are more impressionistic.

Ribbon Snake photographed on a South Texas Ranch while lying on my belly for a unique point of view.
Ribbon Snake photographed on a South Texas Ranch while lying on my belly for a unique point of view. Ribbon Snake

Identify the Attraction

When photographing, it is important to identify what initially attracted you to the subject. Is it rim-light, texture, patterns, repeating elements, reflections, detail, surprising behavior, unique appearance, etc.? Once you realize what caught your attention when you first encountered the subject, you can select the lens, approach, and lighting that will best capture the image. I tend to look for shots that tell a story and show unique behavior.

Click here to read Part 2 of A Passion for Wildlife Photography Photography which was published on February 26, 2020.

Irene Hinke-Sacilotto is a frequent judge and speaker at camera clubs with programs on wildlife, bird, nature, and garden photography as well as on locations such as the Pantanal, Assateague Island, Chincoteague NWR, and Tangier Island. For many years, she has taught photography classes and has lectured at Johns Hopkins University and other educational institutions. Additionally, she has written “How To” articles on nature photography for national publications such as Shutterbug’s Outdoor and Nature Photography, Outdoor Photographer and Birding. Her images have appeared in magazines, calendars, and books published by National Wildlife Federation, Natural History Society, National Geographic, Audubon, and Sierra Club. Credits include the book, “Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, an Ecological Treasure.”  

For more than 35 years, Irene has shared her photographic experiences and love of nature with thousands of individuals through more than 200 photo classes, workshops, lectures, and tours in both the U.S. and abroad including Kenya, Iceland, Newfoundland, the Falkland Islands, and the Brazilian Pantanal. Recent photo workshops include South Dakota Badlands, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Chincoteague NWR, Assateague National Seashore, the Outer Banks, the Hermitage, Norfolk Botanical Gardens, West Virginia Mountains, and Tangier Island. Program sponsors include zoos, nature centers, and conservation organizations such as National Wildlife Federation, the National Aquarium, the Baltimore Zoo, and the Assateague Island Alliance. 

See more of Irene’s work at www.ospreyphoto.com or on Facebook.

Shooting Through “Distractions”: Using Natural Elements to Frame Your Subjects

Blue spruce pine needles (200mm, f/4, ISO 400, 1/90 sec.)
Blue spruce pine needles (200mm, f/4, ISO 400, 1/90 sec.)

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

Imagine a child’s frustration in trying to see a passing parade while peering through a forest of gargantuan adult legs. I suppose it’s human nature to always want an unobstructed view of whatever it is we’re trying to see. This is especially true of press photographers, and of course… the paparazzi. How many times have you seen them on the evening news jostling and elbowing each other out the way in order to get the “best” shot? In nature, however, the best shot isn’t always necessarily the cleanest shot. If used correctly, certain “distractions” can provide a creative frame or bokeh around your subjects.

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